Baltimore’s Debaters Are the Best

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Baltimore debaters hanging out at the White House.
Baltimore debaters hanging out at the White House.

Baltimore boasts one of the nation’s top college debate teams (go, Towson!), but did you know that it’s also home to the nation’s largest and most successful urban debate league serving high school students, too?

The Atlantic’s City Lab digs down deep into the past and present of the Baltimore Urban Debate League, which has served the city’s youth for the past 15 years. It turns out that debate not only helps kids learn to argue skillfully, it also helps keep them in school: Debate students are 3.1 times more likely to graduate than their peers; 86 percent of debaters go on to college. In a city where a full third of students don’t graduate on time, that’s a big deal.

You might assume (as I did) that debaters are successful because successful students gravitate toward debate. That may be true in some cases, but the BUDL also targets some of the city’s most at-risk students. On average, these kids have an on-time graduation rate of 43 percent, meaning that the odds are against their getting a diploma within four years. But get those same kids into debate, and nearly three-quarters of them will finish school on time.

It’s hard to argue with numbers like that. Read more about the BUDL here, and sign up to donate your time/money to the organization here.



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